The Indian Twist to the Schadenfreudian Principle

I recently read a book that had Amazon’s review pages creaking and groaning. It just could not deal with all the heaps of praise and drudged along a bit moodily when you called upon the page to load. Naturally, when I started, I expected it to pull my attention given the huge fan base it had garnered. I was in for a shock. Not only did it not retain my attention, I found myself making excuses for not picking up the book. The book was dank, depressing and catered to the author’s almost pathological need to describe everything.

He looked at his shoes. The brown leather had been cut a bit brashly along the edges, while the leather leading up to the laces were done alright; almost like the cobbler preferred the laces portion to the edges. The brown was a little too brown and on the dusty trails should have blended in, but the gathering dust on the shoes made his feet stand out. Shoes that large gathered a lot of dust.”
And on and on, he went about the dust and colours of the dust, and the patterns it made on the shoes(iff he decided not to take off on the cobbler somewhere near the lace section.) If this was his attitude toward brown shoes, he seemed to get even more excited with tragedies and dripped and dried our hearts out to dry.

Definitely not what the doctors prescribe for already depressing Januaries. I found myself moping about the house, after donating all the brown shoes I could lay my hands on, because that is what a depressing book does to me. It etches my senses down a couple of notches. It just goes to prove that one never knows what is it that people like and why. It is a known fact that humans love to watch suffering in their entertainment choices.

There is a name for it. It is called SCHADENFREUDE: enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others.

It is this that Indian soap opera producers tap into to get their daily bread. Watch any Tamil (or Indian) TV serial in the evening for a healthy dose of morbid fear and tears.
Which brings me to a fundamental question. One can hardly assume that a human being can put up with this much stress, mental agony and physical pain and still take the care to line their lips perfectly with lipstick, and pin their neatly ironed sarees while waiting for the next blow to strike them. I mean when I was reading Book One, I couldn’t even bothered to get out of my pajamas. It seemed too much of an effort.

The Schadenfreudian Principle may indicate that humans enjoy looking at troubled folks, but basic human research suggests that people subconsciously like beautiful people. The result is Indian evening entertainment. These women brave the most severe emotions – raging jealousy, copious tears, vicious misdemeanours and heavy physical and emotional abuse – all the while looking like this. Never a disheveled girl would you find in all the serials of Tamilore.

Thank you Ladies!

A simple grocery list …

This article was published in The Hindu dated 6th May 2017. (The illustration for the published article was done by a cartoonist whose work I have admired for decades, Mr Keshav)

I doubt my mother-in-law would accept the job of creating logical puzzles for the toughest segment of the GMAT. She’d scoff and probably laugh. I’d say she doesn’t know her talents enough. The trick is to get her to talk and just stand by and listen. Then, off you go and replay the conversation and Voila! Riddles galore for all.

Take a task of making grocery lists:

“I am going to the store, what do you want?” The husband says as he sets out to get some milk.
“Right…there is no milk. Curd? … but we have curd. So, no need for curd okay?” she says.
“Okay….milk:yes, curd: no. Got it.” And he tries to grab the keys while the going is simple, but no luck there. She hollers from the kitchen again.

“Vegetables….get some radish pa. No raddishes at all at home, buy tomatoes also. No need for onions – I think there are 6 or 7 left.”
Another step grocery-store bound and she pipes, “Also, get pumpkins. Long since I made avial.”
“Okay…” Now, he really wants to dash out the door to sort out this list in his head, but she isn’t done yet. She has gone to peek into the refrigerator. An act that never bodes well for grocery lists’ health or refrigerators for that matter. Ever.

She exclaims loudly from the geographical location of the refrigerator.
“Ayyo….definitely, need spinach too. Poor child has not had spinach in a long time. Appppaaa….definitely no chillies. There is no much here.”

The mind in the meanwhile, is buzzing: Milk:yes, curd : no, radish: yes, onion: no, tomato: yes

“Get some coriander also….rasam just doesn’t taste the same without some fresh coriander.”
“Oh….I said to buy pumpkins for avial right? Hmm…” and she switches off mid-way through the sentence. Almost like somebody hit the snooze button on her.
“Hellloooo….some one is trying to leave the door to buy groceries. Anything else?”
To which, she gets irritated. “Oh…..stop hurrying me so. I am trying to think whether I should buy a fresh pack of curry leaves or just use the dried ones.”
“Does it matter…just ask him to get it.” pipes in the father-in-law who has been pottering about acting as though he couldn’t hear a thing.

Now…remember how one talks about hitting the raw vein? Apparently, this statement hit one of hers. “Look at him talking as though he doesn’t care whether the curry leaves are dried or not? When I do make the avial with dried leaves…he will say, his sister uses fresh curry leaves when she makes avial.”
“So what? I only say that my sister uses fresh curry leaves in avial!”
“And…what does that mean? That her avial is good.”
“Of course, her avial is good!”
“And what about mine? When I do use fresh curry leaves…not a thing! When I use the dried ones, you have to talk about your sister! So now, I have to remember all the previous avial attempts and collect all his previous comments and sort out the ones he likes and the types he doesn’t and figure out on my own what he likes. Why can’t he say something simple?”

The human mind I tell you. It just doesn’t reflect on its own grocery lists.

The husband, in the meanwhile, just closed the door and settled down on the couch. Long association has told us that the avial topic is a lengthy one. He has turned on his laptop and is cackling at some you-tube video now. A trifle tactless if you ask me. When the avial topic reaches the consistency factor, it is time for all birds flying above our homes to evacuate and change flight direction immediately; not sit down on neighbouring trees and laugh like hyenas at you-tube videos.

If anything irks her more than the sisters-avial-loving-husband topic, it is the sight of the son evidently enjoying something when the grocery needs to be done.

She gathers her wits about her and says, “Oh fine….just get any vegetable. I will sort out what I want to make later.”

A loud sigh later, he leaves. She hears the ignition and charges to the door. “Kondhai! (Child!) I also need toor dal. Don’t get 4 lbs – 2 lbs will do ”
“And moong yellow 1 pound.”

The husband leaves as fast as his accelerator allows him to; before something else is thrown at him. He stands there at the grocers looking confused like a puppy that just lost its way.
Milk:yes, curd: no, radish: yes, onions: yes or no? whatever. Better get some. tomatoes: definitely no, chillies: definitely yes ….coriander?
What about fruits?
And the dhals?

The man has always been credited with thinking on his feet and he places an emergency call from the store. A joke is made about how he has to call from the store every time and the instructions are repeated in pretty much the same order without the avial-curryleaf detour finishing up with the loving note, “Just get any vegetable! It is fine!”

The man comes back looking like he physically hauled a dump-truck across the continent and dumps the produce on the counter. His mother hands him a cup of coffee – you know brace his soul for what is coming.

The man sips contentedly when she asks, “Did you not get beans?”
“NO…you didn’t ask for any!”
“Yes…but I said ‘Get anything!’ I’d have thought that includes beans..”

Eureka! τατουάζ !

I don’t like needles. There have been times when I have shut my eyes so tight and balled up my fists so tightly while having my blood drawn for medical purposes, that nurses have gently drawn my eyelids apart some minutes later, telling me they finished with me some time ago in case I hadn’t noticed. One even said, she finished and was just watching me to see how long I’d sit like that. Well…I am always willing to give people their moments of fun! Those are the good nurses.

I’ve had ones that had me screaming in pain, only to be given the stern look and asked truthfully whether that really hurt that much. To which, I have to gulp a good-ish bit, put on my best school-girl-innocent-still look and bleat about hating needles.

So, you can imagine my horror when I read this news item.

Every one has their ‘Aaha’ moments. And not all of them have them while bathing naked in a tub. Thank heavens for that. I am not sure that what the world needs is a bunch of naked men and women running on the streets shouting ‘Eureka’ in any language that appeals to them. Having said that, I would like to know what gives some people their ideas.

Take this man for example: Not only did he have his penis tattooed, he had it tattooed with the first letter of his girlfriend’s last name. Bizarre as this sentence sounds and definitely not one I’d ever envisioned myself writing on my blog; but the world is a strange place and the best stories are not those of fiction.

Back to the penis story, I want to know why he chose the first letter of his girlfriend’s last name. I mean why not the first letter of her name? Did he think he was going to refer to her Ms.Madhatterson or Ms.Mc.Fearsome for all his love life?

“Oh my lovely Ms.Goodmundsen! ” or

“Don’t cry – I love you so Ms.Maudlin!”

The story ends on a note that doctors discourage penile tattooing lest this man trumps up some followers.

Brisk Get-to-work January

The first month of 2012 is here. You see, if corporate America has a fault, it is that in their minds a lax December or a holiday season should be followed by a brisk getting to work January. Only, the holiday season in all my experience has never been lax. There are two things that contribute to this:

1) People take vacations during the holiday season. You know how tempting it is – the Christmas holidays combined with the New Years and all of that. Which leaves the folks who do not take a vacation during that time to bear the brunt of the workload.
2) Despite all the “Ho Ho Ho”s of the Office parties, this is definitely the point when the year is running out. All the grandiose plans suggested when the New Year had rolled around suddenly becomes important. Folks are milking the remaining ones in the office to cut the slack and buck up to completing as many goals as possible, while tucking into the chocolates.

So, that takes care of the holiday season. Now the day New Year rolls around, there is this pressure around you to undertake slightly unachievable targets. The idea being that if you achieve them, then your goals were too simple (Duh!) and this allows one to stretch one’s limits. In the euphoria of the New Year, we gullibly do so. (What gets pushed out month after month can be dealt with in December with by those who don’t take vacation!) Not only that, we add on personal goals of our own too, and if one of them involves compensating for the extra calories that you ate while achieving the year end goals of the previous year, luck be to you.

2012 rolled in like a stern taskmaster and rapped everybody on the knuckles. In fact, this is the image doing the rounds ….happy working everyone.

hitman monkey
Hitman monkey has no joy!

The Joy of Quiet

2011 seems like a blur. An important blur on the timeline of my life. The year my Tucky was born. I savour the beauty of my pregnancy, the occasional impatience to see my little one while pregnant. Then, the beautiful moment of seeing his face. I shall always remember my daughter traipsing into the delivery room dressed in a fine party dress. When I quizzed her about the choice of clothes, she gave me an exasperated look and said, “Amma, Tucky is seeing me for the first time today. Of course, I have to wear my best clothes!” She quickly added that she knew I couldn’t help being shoddily dressed for the occasion since I was in hospital (Always considerate for my feelings, my little one is!). Oh! The innocence and beauty of it all. The essence of all I admire about life.

We get but one life and what we choose to do with it is our choice. There are so many venues competing for your time and attention that if one is to become a decent success at anything and make the commitment of time, we feel it had better be worth it. But how does one determine what draws the lottery of the limited time available?

I think this is the best past-time and the one that is most prized. Enjoying the maze of our own thoughts, a calm in the chaos.

I quote:

Nothing makes me feel better — calmer, clearer and happier — than being in one place, absorbed in a book, a conversation, a piece of music. It’s actually something deeper than mere happiness: it’s joy, which the monk David Steindl-Rast describes as “that kind of happiness that doesn’t depend on what happens.”

Here is to finding that calm and that peace in us in 2012.

Happy New Year all!

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